How Oscar Heyman became the Jewelers’ Jeweler

Full disclosure I have been waiting for this book, Oscar Heyman The Jewelers’ Jeweler, to be released for almost 3 years. I follow JCK news frequently and on July 15, 2014. This story by Jennifer Heebner showed up.

I clicked on the link immediately! There was the editor detailing how this book about the over 100-year-old jewelry company was being worked on by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The main point I wanted to know was the release date, which was estimated around 2015 or 2016. Well that was pushed out, but I waited and waited. Then on February 3rd, 2017 I received an email from the Museum of Fine Arts about the book’s release on April 1st.

April 1, 2017, arrived and I called the MFA to confirm they had this book. The weather in Boston on April 1st was terrible with snow, wind and rain, a good joke for New Englanders’ thinking winter was behind them. Once I knew the book was ready to buy I made my journey, by public transportation no less, to the museum. Why go on the worst day when I could wait for a sunnier day the next? I wanted this book and the wait had been long enough. Amazon was even behind, not releasing it until the next week.

So what got me to this point? What is it that drew me to Oscar Heyman’s jewelry? It wasn’t the jewelry that got me curious about this company it was their reputation and their story.

The Beginnings

In 1901 the Heyman family sent two of their sons, Oscar and his older brother Nathan to train to be jewelers in the Ukraine. They were living in the Russian controlled area of Latvia at the time. These young apprentices manufactured jewelry and other objects for international clients and the House of Peter Carl Faberge. I had previously seen this reference to Faberge in literature about the Oscar Heyman & Brothers Company. This is what caught my eye and had me research and follow this firm for many years now.

I have written some about Faberge. He is one of my (if not my) favorite designer! My goal is to own a small item manufactured by Peter Carl Faberge’s company. It does not matter what it is, because whatever I buy will be of the best quality.  That is what made Faberge’s company so wonderful every piece no matter the size or value had to be consistent in quality. Everyone that worked for him or represented his company had to meet his high standards.

From what I have seen and learned about the Oscar Heyman Company on my own and through this book is that they have several aspects of their company that parallel Faberge’s. One being their craftsmanship and the second, relationships.

 

Craftsmanship

I see a lot of jewelry at auctions, stores, designer open houses, etc. and the over used phrase of, ‘That is so beautiful!’, is frequently heard at these events. But there must be more than beauty to make a piece of jewelry be looked at as an object of art and desire. The jewelry needs a soul.

A story I have highlighting the character of an Oscar Heyman piece, is from a Christie’s online auction preview I went to last year.  I was going through the cases, starting at one end and working around, when I heard a Christie employee telling a woman that was trying on jewelry from the case about an Oscar Heyman ring that she identified. I tried to move inconspicuously towards the two. The woman telling the story continued telling how Christie’s received a group of jewelry to be cataloged for this auction and as she was going through the jewelry, a ring stood out to her as being something that looked like it was by Oscar Heyman. There was no stamp of the designer but the worker wanted to just see if it might be one of theirs. Pictures and details of the piece were sent to the Heyman office and sure enough Christie’s was contacted and told the ring was in the Heyman archives! Making it a total of three Oscar Heyman rings being offered at this auction! The woman trying on jewelry was no longer looking at the piece she was currently trying on but taking in this fun story of discovery. She quickly asked if the piece she had on was the ring. Her ring was of a gold alligator that wrapped around her figure, most likely a Kieselstein-Cord ring, definitely not an Oscar Heyman, the Christie’s worker confirmed that.  What was the ring you ask? Well the other onlooker wondered if she had picked it but did not ask about seeing the actual ring. I looked in the case and saw three rings with a similar design, a large stone with smaller stones around it. One stood out and I had a feeling that was the ring. So I asked to see the Oscar Heyman ring and the employee picked the one I had my eye on! A yellow diamond in the center with smaller alternating yellow and white diamonds around it. What stood out to me? The setting. The stones were layered and seemed to sit a little higher than the other similarly designed rings. Picture below:

So that was one down. I spotted the second one, a ruby that was in a case by itself.

 

Had to try it on!

The third one I had to ask. This sapphire and diamond ring was in another case, two out of three is not bad!

Not every quality piece I have seen is from Oscar Heyman, but every Oscar Heyman is a quality piece.

 

Relationships

Another aspect that the book touches on is relationships the company has with their employees and retailers.

Company loyalty can be hard to find. Even when you do find a stable job the conditions can be hard to be happy in. So, it was refreshing to hear a story about how the Oscar Heyman employees handled the 25th anniversary of the company. Oscar Heyman and his brother came over to America in 1906 and founded their company in 1912. The 25th anniversary took place in 1937, a time when the country was struggling with troubling economic hardships. The day was to be like any other but the employees wanted to mark the occasion. For the silver anniversary, the employees worked in secret for fourteen months to complete a clock to present to their employers. Picture below found from post by Couture Musings:

Around the globe are the letters O. Heyman & Bros each character marking an hour. The figure on the right is to represent a workbench jeweler. The figure on the left is the god Mercury, that represents commerce and financial gain. At the silver base are the names of all the current employees for that time. It was touching to read that story and to think how much those employees must have loved working for the company to do all this!

Faberge ran a workshop that also cared for their workers. The workers had good wages, excellent working facilities and even had the opportunity to manage small businesses within the company. Many pieces not only have the stamp of Faberge but the maker in charge of that object. It gave a sense of pride and ownership to the workers. Rare for a company to be so invested in their workers.

The retailers also had favorable comments about Oscar Heyman. Mr. Heyman passed away in 1970, the book notes that one retailer recalled during the Depression how Mr. Heyman granted his clients with the option of credit and the opportunity to sell the jewelry on consignment. This helped many businesses stay open as paying for those high-end pieces would have crippled their cash flow significantly, causing them to possibly go out of business.

These businesses were not just a few retailers Oscar Heyman’s business model is selling to stores not to consumers. Black, Starr & Frost, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels to name a few had Oscar Heyman & Bros manufacture jewelry to sell under their stores name. When going to auctions you can still find pieces marked as one retailer but were created by the Heyman Company.

Below is a bracelet that was clearly marked in the Sotheby’s catalog as being from Black, Starr & Frost but on Instagram Heyman shared it as one of the pieces they manufactured. In the book a similar bracelet is pictured and credited as Oscar Heyman. Details of this amazing piece at auction are taken by me below.

Looking Forward

The book spends its time focusing on Oscar Heyman’s business from 1912-1970. Ending their story with the passing away of Oscar Heyman on July 13, 1970.  A few paragraphs mark the centennial that the company celebrated 5 years ago but the focus on the book is the company through the years.

I genuinely enjoyed the book. I was a little concerned when I saw the page count, worrying it would be all photos and no real story, like a coffee table book. It would have been the easy way to make this book.  The thought of picking from hundreds of thousands of jewelry photos seems difficult but how could you go wrong with picking any piece, especially with all the rich history? This book was to show and explain why Oscar Heyman is the Jewelers’ Jeweler. This isn’t a title they claimed for themselves like a marketing campaign. The title has been given to them by the employees, retailers and customers who have been a part of their story. I look forward to continuing to see their jewelry at auctions, in stores and on social media for a new audience to appreciate.

Links to buy the book from Amazon are here or from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston click here

The Language of Pins: Stories behind Madeleine Albright’s Collection

Legion of honor pin owned by Madeleine Albright

I was going to post this earlier but the politics got so ugly I wanted to wait until the dust settled. With the inauguration this week a question I have is what jewelry will the first lady and the daughters of the President wear? I’m sure that and so much more will be analyzed over the next four years. Some of those small choices are not given much thought but for one former White House employee there was a distinct correlation between her pin choice and her mood.

Bejeweled Mickey pin owned by Madeleine Albright, made 1989, Disney

I posted on Instagram art from the all-night event at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston a few months ago. I was unable to attend the special evening events but Madeleine Albright spoke to a group of museum attendees. Some Instagram attendees shared selfies with the former Secretary of State , I’m not posting those but will share a photo of the pin Albright was wearing. I had seen it in a book I read a few years back, Read my Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box by Madeleine Albright. The pin is titled Breaking the Glass Ceiling, by an unknown artist.

Albright had a second pin on with the candidate she is supporting. I won’t mention that either since it only takes one guess knowing which president she served under. So, no more election talk on to the jewels.

The book is a fun read about a collector that happened to serve in a high government office but Ms. Albright’s history of collecting did not start when she got the job of secretary of state, but earlier at age 8. She was the daughter of an ambassador to Yugoslavia on a visit Madeleine’s mother was given an emerald ring surrounded by diamonds. That memory stayed with Madeleine and when she was old enough she was given that ring. The love of pins came from her college days when it was fashionable to wear pins with sweaters. Also in college, the tradition of getting pinned by your boyfriend was to be engaged. Madeleine was pinned by Joseph Albright, they had 3 children. Madeleine was still gifted pins by friends and relatives. Some antique and a few homemade. Below is a pin of beads on safety pin, common at craft fairs and similar to the one owned by Ms. Albright.

 

She had high end brooches as well like these two from Cartier.

Panther pin, Cartier owned by Madeleine Albright

 

Coral, Lapis Bird in Cage, Cartier made in 1944

How did her trademark pin wearing get started? The story is shared by Albright and starts with a snake. See below.

The Serpent’s Tale

The book goes through some of Albright’s family moments where she worn and acquired her pins but I am skipping ahead to her days in Washington where her collection got a lot more attention.

 

The major start to kicking off her jewelry collection in the White House was during Bill Clinton’s first term as President of the United States (1993-1997).  To set the scene, Ambassador Albright was coming in after the first Persian Gulf War and Iraq was required to accept the UN inspections and disclose about all their weapons programs. Saddam Hussein, the Iraq leader at the time, would not comply causing Albright to publicly criticize him. A poem was printed by the Iraq press in retaliation to Albrights behavior. I won’t reprint the poem but use the phrase that caused the start of her pin phase. In the poem the poet referred to Ambassador Albright as an ‘unparalleled serpent’, among other unflattering things. So when Iraq officials were scheduled to meet with her again she need to find the right item to make a statement. This coiled snake pin by an unknown designer was bought a few years back. The reason was unknown to Albright who mentioned in the book to ‘loathe’ snakes. It was perfect though and the press loved it. Albright was sending a message in her own way to the world. This soon became her trademark and still continues to this day.

Albright wearing serpent pin with her ‘don’t mess with me’ face!

Albright has many more pins and stories in this book that could be finished in an evening. A few more from her collection.

Bug Pin by Iradj Moini

 

Lady Liberty clock pin by Gijis Bakker of the Netherlands

Are there any pins you wear to work or wear on your coat for going out? I brought some that belonged to my grandmother that can take a commute to work or errands on the weekend! Thank you for reading and check back for more!

Top hat Eagle pin, 1940 by Trifari

 

Marie Antoinette: How a Diamond Necklace Ruined a Queen

book-cover

Marie Antoinette has been described as a beautiful, witty, wasteful, out of touch, the list can go but in How to Ruin a Queen by Jonathan Beckman, he describes a view of the Queen I never saw her as, clueless. Beckman details and pieces together the history of Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Affair as though you are part of the jury. He presents the different angles of the story that seem like unrelated events but combined created an unbelievable domino effect that lead to the end of the French monarchy.  There were three key parts that created this incredible story. The first transports you to 18th century France where you learn about a little girl named Jeanne whose father was the illegitimate son of priapic Henri II. Henri II was a king who ruled France from 1547 to 1559.  The family lost their right to reign in 1562 and the France was filled with uncertain times as the War of Religions took over the country.

Thankfully the family did not try and put Jeanne’s father in power, he was lazy and squandered his money. He married a beautiful maid that worked at his family’s home when she became pregnant. This woman was Jeanne’s mother and wanted to live an entitled life. This was not to be the family was broke and Jeanne and her siblings spent their early life begging and being beat by their mother. Jeanne’s father died and not long after Jeanne’s mother left her children, Jeanne age 6, to fend on their own.

Jeanne found a couple with children who took Jeanne and her younger sister in. The family tried to teach Jeanne a trade so she could make a modest living but that did not satisfy the wants of a girl who remembered her father’s tales of being a descendant of a King of France. Jeanne thought marriage would be a good escape except she got pregnant by a man with no fortune and little promise of moving up in his situation. The children died at birth and Jeanne was left with a husband she did not care for or would provide her the lifestyle she wanted. Both her and her spouse spent money quicker than they could make it and were always in debt to someone.

It did not seem that their future held any promise of living with little care of money.

The second part was Cardinal Rohan; he had come from a long line of family members whom had held high offices in the Royal Court. The role of Bishop for the French Court was the job Rohan was striving for. His downfall was he loved the excitement of court and got caught up in the gossip. He was working in the Austrian court when he overstepped his bounds and spoke rudely of Empress Maria Theresa. Her daughter, Marie Antoinette never forgot the slight and embarrassment to her mother. She held a grudge against Rohan from then on. That episode occurred around 1772.

The third part, the makers of the necklace. Louis the XV, Louis the XIV’s (the Sun King) son, wanted to have a special gift made for his long-time mistress Madame du Barry. Louis XV wanted Boehmer and Bassenge, a Parisian jewelry company to create a necklace so grand the likes had never been seen before. They took to the task of collecting the diamonds for a necklace named ‘The Necklace of Slavery’.

Sketch of Diamond Necklace
Sketch of Diamond Necklace

 

It had 647 stones and weighed 2800 carats. The streamers to the side went down the wears back to balance them out, so they would not fall forward! The cost today for this necklace would be around $14 million dollars. Unfortunately, Louis XV died two years later and Madame du Barry was banished from court. Louis XVI offered to buy the necklace for his wife and Queen Marie Antoinette but she refused it. From other sources the reasons were the money should go to other parts of the government/country. Another was she did not want jewelry made for another woman and a woman the current Queen did not like. So the jewelers were stuck with a necklace and no buyers.

Replica of Diamond Necklace
Replica of Diamond Necklace

This is where the stories intertwine, Jeanne wants money and feels entitled to have her share of prestige that was denied her due to her past. She lies about knowing the Queen. Rohan is desperate to get back into the Queen’s favor for his promotion that the possibility that this woman could help was an opportunity that he could not walk away from. The jewelers heard of Jeanne’s connection and got an opportunity to see if she could convince the Queen to rethink buying the necklace.

Jeanne gets her hands on the necklace and she and her husband try to pawn off a few stones at a time. They are not too successful and time is running out to keep fooling the jewelers that the Queen owns the necklace and will pay for it soon. When the news reaches the Queen about the necklace and its payment the King has Jeanne and Rohan arrested and a trial take place about all the secrets. One interesting idea that was mentioned was that the Queen would never have wanted that necklace, not because of the previously mentioned reasons but because it wasn’t her style. She was mentioned to like leaving her graceful neck free of adornment.

I looked up some photos to see about her taste in jewelry.

marie-antoinette-portraits

Other evidence is put out there but that was something I had not thought could be a major insight into Marie’s style.  What do you think a good point or not?

I won’t go on with how it ends for the major players but obviously, it tarnished Antoinette’s already fragile reputation. The trail started in August of 1785 and judgement was passed in May of 1786. For those that know important dates in 1791 the French Revolution, ended the monarchies major influence and in 1792 the family was arrested with Marie Antoinette being beheaded on October 16, 1793.

Today though is Marie Antoinette’s birthday, born November 2, 1755. The book had a statement that seemed fitting when looking at the lives of those involved in this scandal, either knowingly or unknowingly. You are never more unwittingly in peril than when you think you’re the author of your own fate, but are in fact a character in someone else’s plot. Something to think about in our own lives.

ma_2_photo
painting of Marie Antoinette

I’d love to know your thought on this piece of history! Have you read the book or seen any of the movies that mentioned the necklace? Hilary Swank starred in a movie based on the scandal, The Affair of the Necklace (2001), did you see it? I hope you enjoyed this post return soon for more Data in the Rough!

Joseff of Hollywood: Jeweler to the Stars

princess-queen-belle

When choosing what you want to be for Halloween, the costume is the first start but what about the jewelry and accessories? Have you dressed up as a princess, Egyptian Queen or Southern Belle? If you have dressed up as your favorite movie character I’m sure you put some thought into the accessories. Well the jewelry about from the movies The Little Princess, Cleopatra, and Gone with the Wind all had the same company supplying and creating the jewelry, Joseff of Hollywood.

joseff-ad

I had known of the company for quite some time, the office that houses these Hollywood treasures is still running and located in California. You can read more on that in this article but I am reviewing the book Jewelry of the Stars: Creations from Joseff of Hollywood by Joanne Dubbs Ball. It was published in 1991. Which has now been 25 years but still a great book because Joseff’s wife was involved in the making of this book, otherwise the stories and extenstive photos of the jewelry created would not have been so in depth. The book is an easy read, divided into 8 ‘scenes’. Starting with the movie production beginnings and ending with the present state of the company. I will briefly cover some main points but not go too detailed so those interested in buying or borrowing the book can do so and not have all the interesting facts given away.

joseff-of-hollywood-book-cover

So in the beginning…

Movies produced had costume designers but a lot of the jewelry was real and belonged to the actress. This does not seem like a big issue but if a period piece on the early 1800’s is being made and an actress in the 1920’s has on trend jewelry the scene does not feel as authentic. You could try and buy period jewelry but again it may not suit the character and role being portrayed. This can also get expensive and hard to find.

 

Joseff’s full name was Eugene Joseff but many thought Joseff was his first name so he answered to that as well. Joseff was born in 1905 to Austrian parents in Chicago, Illinois. We he started out on his own his first attempt at business failed largely due to the Great Depression so Joseff headed to California to try it again at the jewelry business. His younger brother also went with him to be a part of the business.

 

In 1934, Joseff saw a movie starring Lucille Ball as a lady-in-waiting set in the 16th century he was distracted by her 20th century jewels. He knew the costume designer and went to complain about. The costumers’ response, ‘Well, if you’re so smart, let’s see what you can do.’ Well Joseph did and soon he was designing jewelry for most of the Hollywood movies.  Joseff had studied jewelry and its history so he had an idea of what a piece should look like. He also did a lot of research to get the jewelry historically accurate.

 

What I loved most about the book besides the beautiful photos was that it talked about the business side of the business and the strategy. Joseff was great at creating jewelry but he had so areas that he needed to improve, I will touch on 3 important ones.

 

1: The Manufacturing: Joseff had to use outside artisans to create his jewelry, this worked if they could fulfill Joseff’s artistic vision on a piece. There were a few times that the manufacturer claimed the request could not be done. So Joseff knew he needed to spend the money to create his own in-house manufacturing. So, that he could work on those denied requests and he could achieve the designs he created. So, that was one problem solved.

Would not want to attempt to recreate this!
Would not want to attempt                 to recreate this!

2: Selling his Jewelry: The time and effort going into this historically accurate jewelry was costly and time consuming, especially considering the early times when Joseff did not have the jewelry manufactured in house. So Joseff reached a deal with the production team. He would rent the jewelry to them. This was a win/win for both parties. For Hollywood, the cost was reduced by not paying full price and the headache of storing and finding it again was eliminated. For Joseff his creations would not need to be recreated and he would insure they would not get tossed out or forgotten in his archives. I loved this aspect of the story of Joseff. You can some of his jewels reused in several movies. Below is a movie that starred Angela Lansbury (left) the middle photo is Vivian Leigh and on both is the stunning necklace on the right.

scarlett-angela-amethyst-necklace

3: The bookkeeping/other business matters: Joseff did have some good business sense. However, he was not great at bookkeeping and other business related tasks. He recognized that and called a local business college to send over their best and brightest to help. For the University of California Los Angeles that student was Joan Castle. She quickly assessed that the design part of his business was consuming every moment which is why other business aspects were causing some troubles in his business that would grow worse without any one to fix them. Joan and Joseff worked long hours to get the business on the right track and somewhere in all of that they fell in love. Joan described Joseff as handsome and charming, it was love at first sight for her.

 

The story of them getting together is one you should read from this book. It was romantic, funny and filled with some twists. A perfect script for a Hollywood movie!

Joseff and Joan
Joseff and Joan

 

Movies was not to be Joseff of Hollywood’s only revenue stream. Since Joseff’s work was becoming so well-known he decided to go into the retail business. He sold creations seen on the stars he accessorized and made copies to sell in boutiques across the country. He was selective in who sold his jewelry and it was a major success and is still highly collectible. Some of the stars and the retail jewelry below.

joseff-retail-collection

Unfortunately, Joseff’s success was short lived. On September 18th, 1948 Eugene Joseff died in a plane crash. Joan was scheduled to fly with Joseff but had to cancel when some unexpected circumstances came up. The other part to make this more tragic was Joan and Joseff had an 11-month-old baby boy who would never know his father. Joan was inconsolable for weeks but with her resolve to be both mother and father to their son and continue with the business Joseff started she did get back into a routine. She even designed jewelry going forward but with lots of research and photos/paintings from that period to reference.

 

I loved the book and hope another is made maybe with the story on the manufacturing and suppling Hollywood in the modern day. Let me know if you have read this book. If you have any Joseff of Hollywood Jewelry, I’d love to know how you like it! Have a safe and Happy Halloween! Check back later for more Data in the Rough!

Hidden Treasures of the Romanovs

Cover

Conspiracy theories, revolts, grandeur, murder and cover ups are only the start to describe a book that explains how some of the Russian family jewels were saved! It is a relatively short book of 143 pages of text, the drawback at first glance is the few photos and even fewer colored photos in this book. The way the book started out also caused some early doubts about how good the book would be. I didn’t really have any set notions about how the story should go but the intro talking about the unmarked grave in Paris of a man I never heard of in all my reading on Russian Royal History caught me off guard. The photo of him (only one that seems to be publicly available) seemed a bit spooky. (Note: The photographer of the photo below is Cecil Bateman which was a name I know).

Albert_photo_gemIf I had not loved the jewelry of the Russian Royal Family (specifically Faberge) I might not have continued on. That would have been a mistake. The man in the picture above is Albert Stopford, born in England to a family of modest means. Albert left to pursue a job selling jewelry of Cartier and Faberge at his shop in London. There he got to be involved with the high society of London. When World War I was starting his connections soon put him in a position to spy for the Allies and members of the Royal family to see what was the state of the war front. The major contact that is important for this story is Albert’s connection to Grand Duchess Vladmir aka Maria Pavlovna (pictured below). Maria was married to the Czar Nicholas’ Uncle, Vladmir.

Maria_photo_gem

For those that do not know the history of the Russian Revolution it is worth taking a deeper look into. The book describes life in Russia for Albert as he watches what is happening to the Czar and the Russian people. I want to just focus mainly on the two chapters in the book about saving the jewels and the fate of the jewels once recovered. The Russian royalty was under strict watch and subjected to searches of their living quarters in hopes of finding jewels and other valuables. Maria was not located in the place that housed her jewels, so she got help from her sons, other royal relatives and Albert to sneak back in and claim her jewels.  In the meantime, her sister the former Queen Alexandra,(her husband King Edward was dead at this time),  got her son King George (current Queen Elizabeth’s Grandfather) to help get his  Aunt out of the country to save her from a soon to be death. Sneaking back into the palace was no easy task, it was guarded and watched by outsiders. A story in the book told of a royal family member hearing of their palace getting ransacked because the maid forgot to turn off the lights when she left the palace that evening and suspicions were raised about who was in there. Once the men snuck past the guards, Maria’s details of where they could find her jewels was perfectly described.  This made it easy for the men to locate where they should be and thankfully were found untouched. Albert and the group wrapped up the jewels in newspaper and placed them into Albert’s two Gladstone bags. I found a photo of what a Gladstone bag for a gentleman in the early 1900’s would look like. (below)

gladstonebag

Maria is not reunited with her jewels until she gets to London, much later. Albert puts them in a London bank vault until she is safe and able to deal with them. Albert also does not do this for money but out of a sense of friendship and duty.

With the end of the Russian Royal family it also marked an era of amazing wealth and glamorous social scene. I want to share an except from the book talking about Maria’s jewels and how she enjoyed them. The first account is by Consuela Vanderbilt who visited Maria Pavlovna at Saint Petersburg : ‘She [Maria]  had a majestic personality, but could be both gracious and charming. After dinner she showed me her jewels set out in glass cases in her dressing room. There were endless parures of diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls to say nothing of semi-precious stones such as turquoises, tourmalines, cat’s eyes and aquamarines.’  What a night that would be! It seems Russian etiquette called for the hostess show off her jewels to honored female guests. Not what would be called tasteful by others but I would be ok with seeing jewelry at a dinner party!

The other account of Maria and her jewels describes her relationship with her granddaughters. ‘The glass cases were set into four corners of her dressing-room, with red stones (rubies), blue (sapphires), green (emeralds), and white (pearls) in each corner, giving the room an almost octagonal appearance. Her grandchildren remembered their visits as small girls to the Vladimir Palace, and especially the inner sanctum of their grandmother’s dressing-room. To amuse the girls Maria would often invite them to choose what jewels she should wear for her next formal occasion. Red, perhaps? Or blue, green, or white? Olga, the eldest [granddaughter], usually made the final choice.’ Sounds like a typical day spent with a grandmother, lots of fun and laughter playing with grandma’s treasures!

So what became of these jewels? The Russian royals were left with little more than the clothes they came with. Maria needed to sell many of her jewels to continue to live a comfortable lifestyle. Many jewels were discreetly sold to other members of Europe’s royal family, but most were sold far below there true value. An example of a jewel that stayed within a royal family is the Diamond and Pearl Vladimir Tiara, a favorite of Maria’s.

Pearl_tiara_owners

You can see on the far left, in the photo above,Maria is wearing the tiara which was purchased later by Queen Mary who was Queen Elizabeth’s grandmother and passed this crown onto her.

Another look at the tiara worn by Queen Elizabeth (below) shows it missing its pearl drops.

Pearl_tiara_nopearls

Queen Mary had a set of Emerald drops made that could be interchanged with the pearls or just plain as shown. It is nice to have options right? A close up of the tiara with both pearls and emeralds (below).

Pearl_tiara_emeralds

Which look do you like better?

Another jewel that went through a few hands was a set of emeralds. Maria is shown wearing them in a head dress (I got a close up and colored in the emeralds green to highlight), that was converted into an emerald necklace. Remember that center stone with the six sides, in the next set of photos.

EmeraldOwners_1

The next owner was Van Cleef & Arpels that sold them to heiress, Barbara Hutton. She had them as a necklace and then converted them into the iconic tiara that is shown on her. It was also shown in my last review of Famous Jewelry Collectors. You can read more on that transaction through this Sotheby’s article.

Hutton’s emerald’s were then sold again and used in a set of jewelry by Bulgaria that was bought and famously worn by none other than Elizabeth Taylor!

EmeraldOwners_2

I remembered the name of her jewelry being called the Grand Duchess Vladimir Suite in some articles and saw that many of these emeralds were indeed from Maria’s collection. Bulgari bought back the collection when Dame Elizabeth’s jewels hit the auction block in 2011.

A photo combining the British royalty and Hollywood royalty was found online from the later 1970’s when Taylor was married to Senator John Warner. I like seeing the jewels out and enjoyed!

Elizabethemeralds_queen

My Final Thoughts

Albert Stopford’s sacrifices to help save these treasures are still being appreciated today even if many are unaware of his story. I highly recommend this book. It does jump around at the beginning trying to establish different characters stories but it all ties up as the revolution plays out. With the recent world events there were some passages about the people over throwing the ruling family and the struggles of surviving in this paranoid, desolate and divided society  as a product of the revolution that had some difficulty for me to focus on the history and not see some current parallels to the modern day current events. That makes this book all the more necessary to read, so history is learned from the past and not repeated! Check back soon for more book bling!

 

Famous Jewelry Collectors

With summer in full swing many of you probably have plans for how you will spend your summer, trips to the beach, finishing outdoor projects, planning family outings, etc. Summer also has fewer jewelry auctions to preview and is traditionally a slower time for jewelry stores so not a lot of new inventory is in. How will I spend my summer to fill that void of jewelry? I plan on starting on a summer reading list focused on jewelry, book bling. So for the summer I plan to post once a week a book review of a jewelry book I have read. I went to the local library and found several that will be fun to learn about. My first deals with famous jewelry collectors. The book, Famous Jewelry Collectors, is by Stefano Papi and Alexandra Rhodes published in 1999.  Here is the cover:

Famous_Jewelry_Collectors_book_cover

I saw this cover and knew this book was off to a great start. I have featured several of the Duchess of Windsor’s jewels on my Instagram and consider her jewels the finest collection I’ve ever seen!

The chapters about the collectors are broken out into three groups by their social class.

1: Screen Actresses and a Diva

Merle Oberon – Mary Pickford– Ava Gardner –  Paulette Goddard – Joan Crawford- Renata Tebaldi

actresses_group

2: Aristocracy

Cornelia, Countess Carven-Gladys Duchess of Marlborough-King Umberto II of Italy-The Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood – The Princes von Thurn und Taxis – The Duchess of Windsor

Aristocracy_group

3: Society

Countess Mona Bismarck – Lydia, Lady Deterding – Daisy Fellowes – Ganna Walska – Barbara Hutton – Helena Rubinstein

society_group

I want to then look at one collector from each group to highlight their story and jewels.

1: Screen Actresses and a Diva: Merle Oberon

Merle_brooches

I have always admired Ms. Oberon’s work. If you haven’t seen Wuthering Heights (1939) (photo of scene below) costarring Laurence Oliver, it is a must!

Merle_Wheights

Her striking features were due to being born to a mother who was Indian and a farther that was British. He died when Merle was a small child, which had her and her mother relocate from Bombay to Calcutta. The fact her mother was dark skinned created a lot of prejudice against Merle and left her ashamed of her past. Her background was kept secret when she became a star. How did Merle go from India to Hollywood? With her stunning looks she always had admirers and one of them offered her a chance to go to France when she was in her late teens. The fling ended when the man met Merle’s mother but now with her in France she found another man who offered her a part in a film he was directing. She moved to London where she worked as a hostess at a café while getting small roles. As she climbed up the ladder to stardom she had suitors and husbands that gifted her with amazing jewels. One of my favorite pieces is a necklace by Cartier bought in London, 1938. The beads are emeralds with diamond spacers (pictured below).

Merle_emeraldbead

Another fun set to see was a set of brooches in turquoise and diamonds by Van Cleef & Arpels (below).

Merle_brooches_turqMerle also had earrings and a necklace to match. She also wore some of her real jewels in her movies. The 1967 movie, Hotel features the turquoise necklace and earrings. The 1938 movie, The Divorce of Lady X, also features an antique emerald and diamond necklace owned by the actress as she costars again with Laurence Oliver. I could not get a good photo of that stunner for this post. Many of her jewels were auctioned by Christie’s in April 1980 after her death in 1979.

2: Aristocracy: Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough

Gladys_painting

The next collector I chose because of her story being unique to all the others in this group. Although it is the usual start with Gladys being very beautiful and charming, pursued by many eligible bachelors. Gladys declined their advances and pursued learning, mastering new languages and increasing her knowledge of art. This was rare for a woman, especially one in high society to not marry, but Gladys had an independent spirit. Her admirers gifted her with jewels throughout her years. One in particular was the Duke of Marlborough, she met him in 1897 when she was about 16 years old and he was 26. The Duke was engaged to a Vanderbilt whom he married but always kept in touch with Gladys.  He was married 26 years to his first wife when he had it annulled and finally got Gladys to marry him when was now 40. She was hesitant because she loved her life without constraints. She did get some major perks and one of them was the jewelry. Below is an imperial pearl and diamond tiara.

Gladys_crown

This belonged to the Romanovs, the Duke bought it after the Bolsheviks sold it and other items of royalty off. Another item of great beauty is this amethyst and diamond sautoir by Cartier, a great example of art deco jewelry (picture below).

Gladys_amethysts

The marriage was not successful they separated in 1933 and the Duke died in 1934. She disappeared out of much of the public view. She was tracked down by a biographer whom heard of her through mentions in a diary by an admirer. The biographer found her in a little village and got her story. She died in October 1977 at age 97 and her jewels auctioned in 1978.

3: Society:  Helena Rubinstein

I had not heard of this woman until reading this book. Helena Rubenstein is the founder of the beauty product line that bears her name. Helena was born in Poland in 1870 and traveled to Australia at 18 to spend time with her brother’s family. She packed several jars of beauty cream with her for the harsh Australian weather. She shared this cream with her new Aussie friends who were happy with the results. The cream was not invented by her but she ended up partnering with the maker to open shops in Australia to sell this cream.  She married and had children but continued building her businesses. The jewelry was mostly bought by her. She would buy what she called ‘quarrel jewelry’. When she and her husband would have disagreements she would indulge herself with a beautiful piece of jewelry.

Helena_chunky_necklace

She loved chunky jewelry which I found interesting because of her petite size. She height was only 4’10’’. She acquired quite a bit of jewelry and in this book it had a story about her experience with airport security. Her jewels were sold big and colorful that Helena would lie and say they were costume and security always believed her! Below are some photos of her and her jewelry.

Helena_hands

I really enjoyed this book and could not cover it all in one post. I hope the women I highlighted help guide you into reading more on them or finding other books that give more details into the life of the collector. Please let me know your thoughts or if you have a question about this book! Look for more book reviews this summer!